Warsaw


WHAT TO DO

Warsaw has suffered the worst history could throw at it, including virtual destruction at the end of World War 2 - and survived. As a result, it's a fascinating collection of historical landmarks. Excellent museums interpret its complex story, from the joys of Chopin's music to the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto. Poland's capital and largest metropolis also has an outstanding restaurant scene where you can dine well and affordably. This gritty city is known for its incredible resilience and has a spirit unlike any other in Europe.

There's no better spot to begin your adventure than in and around the Old Town. A labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets, ornate tenement facades and picturesque plazas, it's easy to understand why the Old Town (Stare Miasto) is Warsaw's top tourist area. A window into the city's golden days when it was one of the country's architectural pearls - the Old Town was entirely rebuilt after the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (more on this later) and is also symbolic of Warsaw's rise from the ruins of World War 2 and of Varsovians' pride in their city. Note: at the end of 1944, 85% of Warsaw's left bank (of the Vistula River) had been razed to the ground and half of its population had perished. Using prewar sketches, paintings and photographs the Old Town was carefully rebuilt, and is a stunning testament of the city's will to survive. A natural spot from which to start exploring the Old Town is the triangular Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) and its centerpiece, King Sigismund's Column. This monument to the king who moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw was erected by the king's son in 1644 and is Poland's second oldest secular monument (after Gdansk's Neptune fountain). It was knocked down during World War 2, but the statue survived and was placed on a new column in 1949. The remains of the original column can be seen nearby along the south wall of the Royal Castle. This massive brick edifice, a copy of the original blown up by the Germans in World War 2, began life as a wooden stronghold of the dukes of Mazovia in the 14th century. The Royal Castle's heyday came in the mid 17th century when it became one of Europe's most splendid royal residences. It then served the Russian tsars and in 1918, after Poland regained independence, became the home of the president. Today it is filled with period furniture and works of art. Highlights of the castle tour include the Great Apartment and its magnificent Great Assembly Hall which has been restored to its 18th century decor of dazzling gilded stucco and golden columns. The enormous ceiling painting, The Disentanglement of Chaos, is a postwar recreation of a work by Marcello Bacciarelli showing King Stanislaw bringing order to the world. The neighboring National Hall was conceived by the king as a national pantheon - the six large canvases depict pivotal scenes from Polish history. Further on from the National Hall is the lavishly decorated Throne Room. Connected by a short corridor is the King's Apartment, the highlight of which is the Canaletto Room at the far end. An impressive array of 23 paintings by Bernardo Bellotto, better known in Poland as Canaletto, captures Warsaw's mid 18th century glory days in great detail. The works were of immense help in reconstructing the city's historic facades.

From the Royal Castle, head north along ulica Swietojanska and stop in to the historically rich Saint John the Baptist Cathedral at number 8. Considered the oldest of Warsaw's churches, St John's was built at the beginning of the 15th century on the site of a wooden church and subsequently remodeled several times. Destroyed during World War 2, it regained its Gothic shape through postwar reconstruction. Note: look for the red marble Renaissance tomb of the last dukes of Mazovia in the right aisle, then go downstairs to the crypt to see more tombstones including that of Nobel prize winning writer Henryk Sienkiewicz. Next door at ulica Swietojanska 10 is the Renaissance era Jesuit Church. Continue down the street then turn left on ulica Piekarska, walk until you are just outside the old city walls. Check out the sword waving figure of Jan Kilinski - a legendary Polish patriot and hero of the 1794 Kosciuszko Uprising. Further down on ulica Podwale, you'll find one of Warsaw's most poignant landmarks - The Little Insurgent Monument, which honors the memory of the child soldiers who fought and died during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Follow ulica Podwale as it curves northwards and you will eventually arrive at the red brick Barbican. Crowning the set of defensive walls which once protected the city, this round structure dates from 1548. It was partially dismantled in the 19th century, but reconstructed after World War 2 and is now a popular spot for buskers and art sellers. It also serves as a bridge between the Old and New Town. From the Barbican, take ulica Nowomiejska until you reach the beautiful Old Town Square (Rynek). This square is Warsaw's defining highlight, lined with richly decorated burgher houses. During the 15th century the Old Town Square was home to Warsaw's Town Hall, though this was taken down in 1817 and never replaced. In the center of the square you'll find the city's best loved monument - Syrenka. Cast in 1855, this mermaid's form graces every tram, coat of arms and postcard you will see in the capital. Located on the northern side of the Old Town Square at number 28 is the Warsaw Museum. Recently reopened after a long renovation, this museum tells Warsaw's dramatic story. Its film covering the reconstruction of the city, screened several times daily (the English version is at 12p), is fascinating. Note: the museum is open from 10a-7p and is closed on Monday.

Next, make a trek down Warsaw's famed 'Royal Route' and visit some popular sites along the way. Ulica Krakowskie Przedmiescie is easily one of Poland's most prestigious and well known streets. It stretches from the Royal Castle in the Old Town until it blends into ulica Nowy Swiat then aleje Ujazdowskie before reaching the massive Lazienki Park. Marking the start of the Royal Way is Saint Anne's Church, located at ulica Krakowskie Przedmiescie 68. Arguably the most ornate church in the city, it escaped major damage during World War 2. Be sure to take in the trompe l'oeil ceiling, the rococo high altar and the spectacular organ. A short stroll away is the Monument to Adam Mickiewicz, Poland's great Romantic poet. It was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1898. You'll then pass by the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University and the Church of the Holy Cross (ulica Krakowskie Przedmiescie 3) which is the famed final resting place of Frederic Chopin's heart. Across the street from the church is the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument, appropriately seated and holding his astronomical model in front of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It is there that the street becomes ulica Nowy Swiat (New World Street). It, along with its off shoot streets is home to numerous shops, bars and eateries. If you need a break, go to Cafe Blikle at ulica Nowy Swiat 33. It is famous for its donuts, which people have been enjoying for generations. Close by at number 28 is another excellent spot for donuts (paczki) - it is called Stara Paczkarnia and I very much enjoyed a treat filled with chocolate and cherries. After a sugar pit stop, make your way to the Chopin Museum at ulica Okolnik 1. This high tech, multimedia museum within the baroque Ostrogski Palace showcases the work of Poland's most famous composer. Taking up four floors, it shares the life of Frederic Chopin from start to finish leaving absolutely no detail out. The museum features listening booths, personal letters, his death mask and an intriguing section on the women in his life. Note: the museum is open from 11a-8p and is closed on Monday. From the Chopin Museum, head back to ulica Nowy Swiat and look for the famous plastic Palm Tree on the roundabout. It will be your marker for the next stop at aleje Jerozolimskie 3, the National Museum. Containing almost 800000 items in its permanent galleries, this is the largest museum in the country. Highlights include: the Faras Collection - a display of early Christian art originating from a town on the banks of the Nile River that was rescued by Polish archaeologists from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam, the extensive gallery of medieval art, and the best of Polish art - housed on the upper floors. Note: the museum is open from 10a-6p and is closed on Monday. The main thoroughfare of the Royal Way then becomes aleje Ujazdowskie as you head towards Lazienki Park. Before reaching the park, take a moment to admire the Ronald Reagan Monument at aleje Ujazdowskie 6A. It was erected to honor the 40th President of the United States, who is highly respected in Poland for having helped hasten the fall of the Iron Curtain. Further down the avenue you will reach the lovely Lazienki Park. Pronounced wah-zhen-kee, the name Lazienki means baths and is derived from the park's centerpiece and best known attraction - the Palace on the Island. This neoclassical palace is the former residence of the Polish King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. Dating from 1772, it straddles an ornamental lake and like most other Lazienki buildings was designed by the court architect Domenico Merlini. Renovated and refurbished, the palace is open to guided tours - highlights include the 17th century marble reliefs depicting scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses gracing the original bathhouse and the ornate ballroom. Another point of interest in the park is the Island Amphitheatre. Built in 1790, it is based on the appearance of the Roman theatre at Herculaneum in Italy. It is set on an islet in the park's lake, allowing performances to take place on the water. Take your time as you wander through the park and be sure to seek out the magnificent Chopin Monument, sculpted by Waclaw Szymanowski and unveiled in 1926. It depicts the composer sitting in Lazienki next to a willow tree. The original sculpture was destroyed during World War 2, and the one we admire today went up in 1958.

After you enjoy the park, head across the Vistula River and explore the funky eastern district of Warsaw - Praga. There are several options for transportation: taxi (be aware of crafty cabbies), the M2 metro (get off at Dworzec Wilenski), bus 160 (get off at Park Praski) or tram 23 (from the Old Town area). Praga was once regarded as off limits to Western visitors thanks to its criminal element and imposing communist tower blocks, but a revival of sorts now makes this section of town worthy of a visit. Start at the National Stadium, this prominent landmark on the east bank of the Vistula River was constructed in 2012. Its red and white patterning references the Polish flag, and the interior can seat 60000 spectators for either sporting or entertainment events. Daily tours are offered in English; times vary so check out the website for details. Next, stop by the Praga District Museum at ulica Targowa 50. This small museum is a branch of the Museum of Warsaw - it covers the complex history and captures the colorful district in several interactive exhibits. Note: the museum is open from 10a-6p and is closed on Monday. Poland's national drink (and one of my favorites) is vodka, so it's only right and natural to pay a visit to the Polish Vodka Museum. Located at plac Konesera 1 on the site of a former vodka factory, this newly opened museum is a multimedia filled experience, taking you from the early beginnings to modern day production methods. Along the way, you will see a variety of old vodka bottles and be treated to a vodka tasting. The museum is a celebration of the wonderful spirit, so deeply tied to Polish history itself. Tours start every 20 minutes and are provided in English. Note: the museum is open every day from 10a-8p. With your buzz, make your way over to the totally rad Neon Museum at ulica Minska 25. Situated within the cool Soho Factory complex of old industrial buildings housing designers and artists, this museum is devoted to the preservation of the iconic neon signs of the communist era. The collection is arrayed within a historic factory, with many large pieces fully lit. Other exhibits are dotted around the complex and are illuminated after dark. Note: the museum is open every day from 12p-5p and guided tours in English are by reservation only. Before heading back across the river, be sure to hit the excellent Kofi Cafe - located next to the Neon Museum within the sprawling Soho Factory compound. Excellent coffee is served in an atmospheric industrial interior, enhanced by the aroma of coffee beans being roasted on the premises.

Back in the Old Town, take bus 180 to POLIN - the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Located in the Muranow district, this is where the Warsaw Ghetto stood during World War 2. This exceptional museum's permanent exhibition opened in late 2014. Impressive multimedia exhibits document 1000 years of Jewish history in Poland, from accounts of the earliest Jewish traders in the region through waves of mass migration, progress and pogroms, all the way to World War 2 and the destruction of Europe's largest Jewish community. Be sure to rent an audio guide to get the most out of the many rooms of displays, interactive maps, photos and videos. Note: the museum is open from 10a-6p and is closed on Tuesday. Outside the museum is the Ghetto Heroes Monument - this stern memorial commemorates the thousands who lost their lives in the ill fated Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Note: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War 2 to oppose Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to death camps. After the summer of 1942, in which more than a quarter of a million Jews were deported from the ghetto to Treblinka and murdered, the remaining Jews began to build bunkers and smuggle weapons and explosives into the ghetto. The uprising started on April 19 and ended on May 16 with the burning of the ghetto, block by block. In the end, a total of 13000 Jews died. Just down the road on ulica Mila 18 is the Monument to Mordechai Anielewicz. This mound topped by a simple limestone block forms a memorial paying tribute to Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Ghetto Uprising, who perished in a bunker on this site in 1943. Further down the road at ulica Stawki near ulica Dzika is the Umschlagplatz. A moving monument marks the site of the Umschlagplatz, the railway terminus from which Warsaw's Jews were transported by the Nazis to the Treblinka death camp. The rectangular monument's marble walls are carved with more than 3000 Jewish names, and the stark message 'Along this path of suffering and death over 300000 Jews were driven in 1942-43 from the Warsaw Ghetto to the gas chambers of the Nazi extermination camps'. Its shape is symbolic of the cattle cars into which the prisoners were herded. Following the Ghetto Uprising the entire area was leveled so few traces remain. If you duck into the courtyard at ulica Zlota 62 you will see a remaining part of the ghetto wall complete with a commemorative plaque. From there, head to ulica Grzybowska 79 and the outstanding Warsaw Rising Museum. One of Warsaw's best, this museum traces the history of the city's heroic but doomed uprising (a second rebellion) against the German occupation in 1944 via three levels of interactive displays, photographs, film archives and personal accounts. Note: the Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944 and was a major World War 2 operation by the Polish underground resistance, led by the Home Army to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to raze the city in reprisal. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War 2. Although the exact number of casualties is unknown, it is estimated that about 16000 members of the Polish resistance were killed and between 150000 and 200000 Polish civilians died, mostly from mass executions. During the urban combat, approximately 25% of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender of Polish forces, German troops systematically leveled another 35% of the city block by block. Together with earlier damage suffered in the 1939 invasion of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945. The Warsaw Rising Museum opened on July 31, 2004 - marking the 60th anniversary of the uprising. The volume of material is overwhelming, but the museum does an excellent job of instilling in visitors a sense of the desperation residents felt in deciding to oppose the occupation by force, and of illustrating the dark consequences, including the Germans' destruction of the city in the aftermath. The exhibit begins with the division of Poland between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 and moves through the major events of World War 2. It then goes into great detail about the uprising in 1944 and the brave men, women and children who fought back against all odds. After leaving the Warsaw Rising Museum, go reflect at the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising at plac Krasinskich. One of Warsaw's most important landmarks, this striking bronze tableau depicts Home Army (Armia Krajowa) resistance fighters emerging from the shattered brickwork of their ruined city, while others descend through a manhole into the network of sewers. The monument was designed by Wincenty Kucma and unveiled on August 1, 1989 - the 45th anniversary of the doomed revolt against Nazi occupation. Conclude your tour of Warsaw at the city's (and all of Poland) tallest building, the communist era Palace of Culture and Science. Love it or hate it, every visitor to Warsaw should visit this iconic, socialist structure. This 'gift of friendship' from the Soviet Union was built in 1955 and is home to a massive congress hall, cinemas and museums. Take the high speed elevator to the 30th floor observation deck for commanding views of the city. The building has never sat well with the locals, who have some uncomplimentary nicknames for it. However, though there are occasional calls for it to be demolished, the Palace of Culture and Science is gradually becoming accepted (even embraced) as a city icon.

WHERE TO EAT

Warsaw has a number of great places to eat and drink, at a fraction of the cost of most major European metropolises. From casual cafes and milk bars, to upscale dining spots and stylish cocktail lounges - the Polish capital is sure to please. Begin at Charlotte Chleb I Wino, located at aleje Wyzwolenia 18 on plac Zbawiciela. Enjoy buttery croissants with jam or traditional egg dishes - breakfast is served all day at this trendy French bakery. All the ingredients are sourced locally and vary depending on the season. Additionally, their chocolates and jams are made in house. Making a stir with Warsaw's intellectuals is Cafe Prozna, a fun spot set inside a historic building at ulica Prozna 12. Decorated with prewar photographs, it comes with a pile of well thumbed history books, tiny tea candles and some darn good coffee. If you fancy fine pastries as I do, then head to Odette Pastry Shop at ulica Gorskiego 6. Odette is perhaps the city's first boutique pastry shop and cafe. The stylish interior invites you to indulge in their unique confectionery creations: cakes, cookies, chocolates and macaroons. If your sweet tooth demands more sweetness, make your way to the legendary Cafe Bristol at ulica Krakowskie Przedmiescie 42. In addition to freshly brewed coffee and squeezed juices, the top draw here is the delectable bristol tort. It is made with Polish plums, crunchy hazelnut cream and rich chocolate = yummy. Cafe Bristol has been enchanting guests since 1901 and is a must visit in Warsaw. Another excellent spot for coffee and cake is Cukiernia Strzatkowski at ulica Swietojanska 15 in the Old Town. Finish up at the wonderful E Wedel Chocolate Lounge at ulica Szpitalna 8. Wedel is Poland's longest established chocolate manufacturer, in business since the 1860s. This classy venue is impressive in both size and scope - covering every variety of chocolate drink, dessert, truffle and ice cream dish imaginable.

For lunch, I recommend trying a traditional Polish Milk Bar. Expect a rare insight into Eastern Bloc Poland in Milk Bars (Bar Mleczny). Subsided by the state, this was food for the masses back in the day. With the fall of communism many Milk Bars ceased to exist although a few survived and gained cult status. These cafeterias make it possible to eat lots in return for a handful of coins. Bar Mleczny Familijny is located at ulica Nowy Swiat 39 and is a sentimental favorite. It is known for its sorrel soup (zupa szczawiowa) and strawberry fruit dumplings (pierogi z truskawkami). In the Old Town, just outside the Barbican at ulica Mostowa 27, look for Bar Mleczny Pod Barbakanem with its distinctive orange walled exterior. A staple that's been around for decades, you can eat a full lunch with a drink here for under $4. Located at ulica Zgoda 1, Krokiecik does a modern take on the classic Milk Bar - serving tasty inexpensive soups, salads and hot dishes such as sausage and been casserole (fasolka po bretonsku), beef stroganoff (strogonow z wolowiny) and chicken ragout (ragout z kurczaka). Another throwback spot is Bar Mleczny Prasowy at ulica Marszalkowska 10. This Milk Bar in the sprawling area south of aleje Jerozolimskie dates back to 1954 and has a classy interior so retro, you'd reminisce about Sputnik comrade. It serves up a delightful range of pierogi and delicious soups - two of my favorites. Bar Bambino is yet another iconic Milk Bar in Warsaw that is frequented by locals and always seems to be busy. Located at ulica Hoza 19, it also attracts tourists who are in search of an authentic communist era Poland experience. Do try the Polish dumplings (pierogi) and beetroot soup (barszcz).

If you can't get enough of those scrumptious Polish dumplings, head to Zapiecek at ulica Nowy Swiat 64 (with several other locations). Packed at all hours, this pierogi kitchen assumes the grandmother's country cottage look with pots and pans hanging from every shelf. The deliciously light dough pockets come with all the fillings you can imagine - from cheese and onions to meat and potatoes. Shifting gears, you probably would not think to hit a vegan restaurant in Warsaw, but Krowarzywa Vegan Burger has the best burger in town. Located at ulica Hoza 29, its burgers are complemented by a variety of fillings like tofu, mushrooms, buckwheat and vegan mayo. The burgers are tasty and always made from fresh top quality ingredients that will please even the most obstinate meat eaters. Krowarzywa also serves a great variety of healthy smoothies made with fresh fruits and vegetables. Nearby at plac Defilad 1 is Cafe Kulturalna. It doesn’t get much more iconic than this - not only will you be in the 'Cafe of Culture', but you will be eating on the ground floor of Warsaw’s most famous building: the Palace of Culture and Science. It attracts a good mix of locals and tourists with the central train station a few blocks away. The menu focuses on soups, salads and pastas. MOMU gastrobar specializes in grilled and smoked meats, fish and even cheeses with an imported American southern smoker. The smoker is fed daily by fresh cut wood from the Lomianki forest outside Warsaw. The cocktail menu is creative and the staff are casual and friendly. MOMU can be found at ulica Wierzbowa 9. Dawne Smaki is an excellent, easy to reach place that thrives on old style Polish cooking. Located at ulica Nowy Swiat 49, its menu highlights include: herring in cream, stuffed cabbage rolls, steak tartare and loin of venison in a mushroom sauce.

There are several places for dinner and I would like to share some of my favorites. Located across the Vistula River in the Praga district is the superb Warszawa Wschodnia. This restaurant is housed within a huge industrial building in the Soho Factory complex (ulica Minska 25) and takes its name from a neon sign salvaged from the nearby train station of the same name. It serves a modern interpretation of Polish cuisine with French influences. I suggest going with the four course tasting menu, it is unbeatable and won't break the bank. Back in the heart of the Old Town at ulica Swietojanska 2 is Restauracja Polka. Celebrity chef Magda Gessler loves to fit out her restaurants with folksy floral wallpaper and rustic wooden tables, and this popular spot is no exception. The decor accentuates the high quality versions of traditional Polish food - including blood sausage, pork shanks on cabbage and crispy duck in honey. They all pair well with the different flavors of in house vodkas. Situated in the New Town, just up the street from the Barbican at ulica Freta 3 is Restauracja Pod Samsonem. It is frequented by locals and tourists looking for inexpensive and tasty Polish food infused with a Jewish flavor - such as marinated herring, pierogi, gefilte fish and chopped chicken liver with garlic (kawior po zydowsku). Stary Dom translates into English as 'old house' and living up to its name, it is a restaurant with a long culinary tradition. The old fashioned interiors are filled with beautiful wooden furniture, lamps, candles and paintings. The menu includes traditional Polish dishes, such as broth with homemade noodles, zurek soup made with mushrooms and pork knuckle (golonka). Hearty main courses include the lamb shank with seasonal vegetables and the oven roasted duck with potato puree and red cabbage. Be sure to save room for dessert, the pistachio cheesecake was heavenly. Stary Dom can be found at ulica Pulawska 104. My last 2 restaurant destinations are considered 'fine dining' and both are well worth a visit for that special occasion of being in Poland. Nolita is an exquisite dining destination that attracts locals more than tourists. Located at ulica Wilcza 46 in the central Srodmiescie district, it specializes in beautiful modern European dishes. The refined interior features an open kitchen which lets you see skilled Chef Jacek Grochowina at work with his team. Go with the five course tasting menu with wine pairing, it is so choice. Note: the restaurant is open for dinner from 6p-10p and reservations are imperative. U Fukiera is the most famous and oldest restaurant in Warsaw, dating back to the 16th century. The magical interior is a work of art, crowded with paintings and antiques. The food and wine list are perfect indulgences for a truly fine dining experience right in the heart of Old Town. U Fukiera is located at Rynek Starego Miasta 27, the ideal spot on the Old Town Square.

Warsaw has a number of cool places to enjoy a drink or two. Begin at Plan B, located on plac Zbawiciela at aleje Wyzwolenia 18. This popular upstairs bar draws a mixed crowd of young and not so young. The drinks are killer, the couches are comfortable and the music is chill. In the summer months the action spills out onto the street, giving the square the feel of a block party. Polyester is a smooth establishment with fashionably retro furnishings and a laid back vibe at ulica Freta 49. It serves excellent cocktails, hosts live jazz and is arguably the hippest joint in the New Town. Another solid choice is Podwale Bar & Books, located at ulica Waski Dunaj 20 in the Old Town. The cocktails are in a class of their own and specifically customized for the season. The jazz music perfectly suits the place and the barkeeps are knowledgeable and friendly. There is a nice selection of spirits and the atmosphere is relaxed. My favorite spot in the city for an adult beverage is Zamieszanie, found in the former communist party headquarters at ulica Nowy Swiat 6. It serves cocktails in stylish round bottles - with each drink you also get a complimentary bottle of water of the same size, which actually is very smart. All drinks are served with fresh fruits, vegetables or herbs. The extremely friendly staff will guide you through the labyrinth of tastes at this hip place with a cool vibe. As mentioned earlier, vodka is Poland's national drink. The Poles have been producing and drinking it since the early Middle Ages, distilling their skill into some of the best blends in the world. The 2 most highly regarded clear Polish vodka brands must be Belvedere and Chopin, both of which you can find everywhere. While clear vodkas are generally reserved for weddings and mixed drinks, the real fun of Polish vodka sampling is the long list of flavored vodkas. Some of the countless I enjoyed include: Wisniowka (the most common flavored vodka, it is cheap and cherry flavored), Zoladkowa Gorzka (an aged amber colored vodka flavored with herbs and spices), Krupnik (a sweet vodka made from honey and a multitude of herbs), Zubrowka (flavored with a type of grass specific to Bialowieza Forest - a blade of which appears in each bottle - it is yellow in color with a mild fragrance and taste of hay. The quintessential way to conclude your evening in Warsaw is to take in a Chopin concert. There are various vendors around town that advertise daily - depending on the time of year you visit, I highly recommend attending a performance either in the park or inside a beautiful church.

WHERE TO STAY

Warsaw offers a number of places to call home during your stay and there are 2 that I especially enjoyed. Both are in prime locations that provide exceptional service, modern amenities and comfort. The first is Hotel Bristol, located at ulica Krakowskie Przedmiescie 42. Set in a grand building dating from 1901, this luxurious art deco style hotel is a short walk from the Old Town and Royal Castle. The chic, contemporary rooms feature free WiFi, iPod docks and flat screen TVs. Other amenities include the previously mentioned Cafe Bristol (get the bristol tort), an upscale restaurant, two swanky bars and a splendid spa.

A second option is Mamaison Hotel Le Regina, located in the New Town at ulica Koscielna 12. Housed inside the historic 18th century Mokrowsky Palace, this stylish boutique hotel is a short walk from the shops and restaurants in the Old Town. It manages a successful combination of traditional architecture and contemporary design. Warm, individually furnished rooms with elegant decor and hand painted frescoes offer flat screen TVs, complimentary WiFi and minibars. Added perks include a fine dining restaurant, a bar, an inner courtyard and spa with a sauna and massage room.

Warsaw has an unforgettable history, resilient people, excellent museums and a fascinating culture. Until next visit, na zdrowie Warszawa.